I have done a presentation or two over the past few years. Actually, I have done over 1000 to audiences on five continents. While you do need to be careful of local customs and culture in your talks, one principle is universal in any industry, country, or venue.
Being boring sucks the life out of people.
Even if you give a speech in Buenos Aires (in English) and tell bad jokes about American football, a great visual presentation with a clear message breaks through barriers. This article talks about some great ideas to jazz up your presentation, and let me add a few of mine:
- Tell a story about you and other real people. Concepts and theory do not keep me warm at night, and they do not care about me. I care about people.
- The article says you need a new story or reset every 10 minutes. I actually believe 7 minutes is the better number. Why? That was the average length of a Bugs Bunny cartoon from back in the day, and I think that is a good estimate of attention span.
- STOP TALKING TO THE SCREEN. If you do not know your content well enough, shame on you for not practicing. I can read just fine, thank you very much.
- Related to #3, if you need everything on the screen as your notes, shame again. Side note: have a different version of the presentation to hand out after the event with all the details.
- Pictures, pictures, pictures. However, no clip art, no silly guy scratching his head, none of those old pencil-art cartoons. Powerful (full resolution!) visuals beat lame attempts at humor.
- Do not talk about your bio, credentials, etc as your first few minutes/slides. If you can find and send me a video of Steve Jobs doing so, I will rescind this edict. Reading your resume to people is bragging and self-absorbed, and it is not why people are taking the time to see you.
- Do not end with Q&A. If you need to take questions, do so throughout the session or in the last few moments. BUT, you need to always end with a powerful story. There is nothing worse than a great speech ending with, “Are there any questions? Any at all? No? OK. Thanks.”
I welcome your helpful tips to add to this list and those expressed in the article. Remember, a great presentation can change the lives of one or more audience members. Don’t you dare waste that chance.
“Those classic PowerPoint slide decks with a headline followed by multiple bullet points of long phrases are the surest single way to lose an audience’s attention altogether.” –Chris Anderson, TED